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Unicef call for the protection of
children in armed conflict||
April 30, 1999
Armed conflicts around the world are taking an increasingly horrific
toll on the rights of children, UNICEF Executive Director Carol
Bellamy said in Bogota today.
"In Angola, in Kosovo, in Colombia, and in many other places, we
are witness to the criminal violation of child rights, including
forced displacement, abduction, sexual abuse, conscription into
military service and the use of children as spies and human
shields," Ms.Bellamy said.
"The wounds inflicted on children in armed conflict are an
affront to every impulse that inspired the Convention on the Rights
of the Child," Ms. Bellamy said. "And that is why the international
community must loudly proclaim these violations of child rights for
what they are: intolerable and unacceptable."
In the past decade alone, more than 2 million children have been
killed in armed conflict. Another 6 million have been seriously
injured or permanently disabled. And countless others have been
forced to witness or even to take part in horrifying acts of
The UNICEF chief made the remarks during a visit to Colombia for
meetings with UNICEF representatives from Latin American and
Caribbean countries. In a meeting with the Colombian President,
Andres Pastrana, she congratulated him for his efforts to settle his
country's long civil conflict. She also said she was encouraged by
Colombia's strong pursuit of development goals for children in the
However, Ms. Bellamy expressed alarm that children are
increasingly being caught up in violent conflict - not just in
Colombia, but in many other parts of the world.
In Colombia, according to Defensoria del Pueblo de Colombia, the
official human rights ombudsman, an estimated 6,000 children under
the age of 18 are involved in the continuing civil conflict there.
According to CODHES, an independent human rights monitoring group,
131 children were kidnapped in 1998. Over the past decade, 1,257,000
people have been displaced by the conflict - including 700,000
children. In 1995-96, an estimated 99 people were maimed and 29
killed by anti-personnel landmines - 44 of these victims were
Ms. Bellamy appealed to the Colombian government to revise
national legislation to prevent recruitment of children under 18
into military service by all parties to the conflict and also urged
the government to ratify the Ottawa Convention banning
"The situation of children displaced by armed conflict should
figure prominently in an agenda to bring lasting peace to Colombia,"
the UNICEF chief said. "Children have played a key role in the peace
effort here and their faith and trust must not be betrayed.
Attention should be given to every displaced child in Colombia and
the terrible disruption of so many young lives must be brought to an
end. UNICEF will do all in its power to help reach this goal. We
appeal to all parties to the conflict to do the same."
"Children should always have a first call on
resources, particularly in situations of armed conflict," Ms.
Bellamy said. "In the 10th anniversary year of the Convention on the
Rights of the Child, The wounds inflicted on children in armed
conflict - physical injury, gender-based violence, psychosocial
distress - are an affront to every impulse that inspired the
Convention, and on the eve of a new millennium, this message cannot
be stated too strongly."